Tuesday, November 8, 2005

EC Rules Against Subsidy for Digital Terrestrial TV (DVB-T)

The European Commission ruled that subsidies worth some EUR 4 million granted to commercial broadcasters for the use of the digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) network in the German's Berlin-Brandenburg region violate EC Treaty state aid rules because they are liable to distort competition.

Without notifying the Commission, the media authority of Berlin-Brandenburg gave the subsidy to commercial broadcasters (including RTL and ProSiebenSat.1), to meet part of their transmission costs via the DVB-T network launched in November 2002. In return, the broadcasters undertook to use the DVB-T network licensed to the company T-Systems for at least five years. Following complaints by cable operators, the Commission opened a formal inquiry in July 2004.

In its latest DVB-T decision, the EC outlined acceptable forms of public support for the digital switchover. These include:

  • funding for the roll-out of a transmission network in areas where otherwise there would be insufficient TV coverage

  • financial compensation to public service broadcasters for the cost of broadcasting via all transmission platforms in order to reach the entire population, provided this forms part of the public service mandate

  • subsidies to consumers for the purchase of digital decoders as long as they are technologically neutral, especially if they encourage the use of open standards for interactivity

  • financial compensation to broadcasters which are required to discontinue analogue transmission before the expiry of their licences, provided this takes account of granted digital transmission capacity.


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